Sad news today about the death of Macho Man Randy Savage...and the fact that he died in a car accident somehow makes it even more sad. Most of the time when we hear of a wrestler passing before his time, it is due to some repercussion of their lifestyle...drugs, steroid use, etc. Not that it makes their deaths any less tragic...but, yeah, it kind of does.
So, anyway...in honor of the Macho Man, here is a list of the Top 20 wrestlers from the time that I actually was regularly watching (roughly 1984-2001). This is not necessarily a list of my "favorite" wrestlers...it's the ones I considered the best, based on in-ring work, mic skills, total body of work (including longevity and style adaptability) and the iconic nature of the "character" they created.
Yes, I put WAY too much thought into this. And one thing I learned...apparently wrestling fans LOVE both Creed and Staind. That was disappointing, but not surprising.
First off, honorable mention to a few who JUST missed the list: Scott Hall, Owen Hart, Magnum T.A., and Vader.
20. Curt Hennig. Mr. Perfect was just a great character, and at his peak he really knew how to work a match. I'll never forget his 360 degree selling of clotheslines.
19. Edge. Would probably be higher on the list based on his work after the time period I'm looking at...but even by 2001, he was already established as one of the greatest workers in the world, and was often hilarious on the mic.
18. Jake The Snake Roberts. Inventor of the DDT, and creator of one of the most iconic and memorable characters of all time. Dude scared me to death when I was a kid...but I still wanted to be him every time we would imitate wrestlers on our trampoline.
17. Arn Anderson. The enforcer. One of the legitimate tough guys in the sport, and almost nobody was better on the mic.
16. Eddie Guerrero. CHEAT TO WIN, BABY!!!
15. Triple H. Not the most consistent in ring worker, but for a time in the early 00's he could make a claim at being one of the to 2-3 in North America. Nobody since Hulk Hogan has had as much power behind the scenes.
14. Sting. One of the great babyfaces of all time, and a very consistent in-ring worker who put on some classics in the late 80's and into the 90's against Flair, Vader, and others. Was never the same after the stupid "Evil Sting" storyline in 96-97.
13. Chris Jericho. I probably have him too high, but he was always one of my personal favorites. A bit sloppy in the ring, but few were better on the mic, and his intro to WWF was one of my favorite mark-out moments as a wrestling fan.
12. Undertaker. Had some of the worst matches I have ever sat through...but also created maybe the greatest persona in pro wrestling history, and managed to stay relevant through many iterations of the sport and several different wrestling styles.
11. Ricky Steamboat. Generally regarded as the greatest pure babyface of all time, and one of this generation's greatest workers as well. When compiling a list of the greatest matches of the 1980's, he probably has at least three or four of the top five (at least two out of the trilogy against Flair, and his epic match with the Macho Man at WrestleMania III).
10. Mick Foley. A true hardcore wrestling icon, and consistently one of the best in the sport on the mic, no wonder which of his personas he was using.
9. Randy Savage. This is a guy whose in-ring skill gets overlooked due to his persona, I think. But he was a great worker as well as one of the most insane promo guys of all time.
8. Dynamite Kid. Before the back injury, he may have been the best worker in the world. If you are a fan of pure, old school wrestling, do yourself a favor and look up some of his matches in Japan against Tiger Mask.
7. Chris Benoit. Fitting that he makes the list just ahead of Dynamite, who was his hero. If this was based solely on in-ring ability, he may be number one. But the guy couldn't cut a promo to save his life. (poor choice of words?)
6. Kurt Angle. One of the most athletically gifted and innovative performers I have ever seen, and could work a crowd as well as anybody in history.
5. Bret Hart. The Excellence in Execution. One of the top 2-3 pure workers I ever saw, but only so-so on the mic.
4. The Rock. THE most ELECTRIFYING man in SPORTS ENTERTAINMENT. Probably the 2nd greatest ever on the mic, and overcame a pretty rough start to become a better than average in-ring worker. Could definitely tell a story in the ring, and had some true classics in the 99-01 era. A huge part of the most successful time in history for pro wrestling, and one of its most recognizable figures.
3. Stone Cold Steve Austin. All he did was singlehandedly bring the WWF into the "Attitude Era" and basically destroy WCW, along with the Rock.
And...here is where it gets controversial...
2. Ric Flair. The best promo guy of all time. Could carry a broomstick to a 3 star match. World Champion dozens of times over. And my #2 of all time by a razor thin margin.
1. Shawn Michaels. I know I'm going to take some crap for this one. In my opinion, my top two are interchangeable...the only thing that puts Shawn Michaels ahead of Flair is that he wrestled so many different styles...as awesome as some of Flair's matches were, they had a tendency to follow the same patterns every time. Michaels has wrestled more styles, told a greater variety of stories with his matches, and that puts him over the top for me.
OK, now it's your turn...where am I wrong? Who are your favorites? What are some of your favorite wrestling memories?